Whingeing Pom

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Yes it is Puglia and not Bondi Beach but I just feel the need for a couple of whinges coming on and I am a Pom.

It has rained here on and off and more on than off since we landed on Sunday afternoon. Yesterday we had 2 inches of rain in the morning and for three days power cuts every hour or so. Some are short some last up to 10 minutes.  The power surges that accompany them mean we are blowing light bulbs like most people have hot dinners. Internet reception has been spasmodic to say the least and yesterday and the day before it was off all day. Though I feel bad about saying it, at the moment it is like living an a very backward third world country. Indeed Zimbabwe  has faster internet speed than around Martina Franca. Since we left Martina Franca on September 6th the place has had an incredible 17 inches of rain. Roads are pot holed, fields flooded and the grape crop this year was a disaster.

flood

 

The best one can say is the fields are amazingly green  (when they’re not under water) but so they should be.

There got it off my chest and I feel better already. I never really minded the tag a Pommy bastard when I lived in Australia. it was said by most Aussies as a term of endearment rather than in a vicious way. Some Brits did whinge though especially about the beer. When working on P&O taking £10 migrants down to Australia we always served Swan lager from Perth Western Australia and it was served ice cold. I was alway amazed at the number of Brits travelling down there that said to me ” I can’t wait to get to Australia and get a decent pint of bitter again.” Many of those we picked up to take back to the UK as we sailed back across the Tasman Sea having turned around in Aukland New Zealand. This lad does a TV show down under called the whingeing Pom. He is funny.

Of course I was happy to write the terrible weather off to a freak year but today I open my local paper and read that Prof. Antonio di Santo head of the Autorita di Bacino della Puglia has said ( and he is backed by several other climate change professors) “Get used to it Pugliese  this is here to stay indeed trust me it is going to get worse year by year from now on” . It seems the Adriatic and Ionian Seas are warmer than they were 30 years ago when Puglia wallowed in the glorious title ” The Sun Soaked South” . This warming has meant a release of energy that makes the Scirocco ( from the South West) storms more intense. So more tornados, more water spouts and much much heavier rainfall causing massive floods and death. He is a real optimist is our boy Antonio .He must be a great dinner guest ! Bet the tourism and estate agents of Puglia love having him in the paper and on the telly. So if you are thinking of a holiday here or buying a house bring lots of umbrellas, wellington boots and grow some webbed feet if you can.

I forgot to mention the other day that we stopped for the night in Mola di Bari on the way from the airport to home. I realised  with an evening arrival, by the time the car had been picked up and on the road that trying to open the house up and get it warm and cosy would be impossible. It was a good decision as the house when we did get to it on Monday was damp .Hardly surprising though really.

I visited Mola di Bari last year and liked it and so gave it another go. It is a lovely fishing village and after Cyprus where an evening meal out was never less an €35 for two it was great to find a good pizzeria called La Vedetta ( the lookout) only €20 for two. The hotel Gabbiano was functional but the bed served it’s purpose and the breakfast food offering was the usual . The coffee machine sounded as if it was regurgitating something after a heavy night and the taste of the coffee kind of backed that up.

I took the opportunity to pop down to the port where the fishing boats were coming in.

Mola fishing harbour

 

A group of blokes stood on the quayside and whenever a boat came in they would would walk down to it and have a look at what they had caught. Good shot I thought so I followed them down. Up went my camera to take a close up of the catch and across the lens came a hand. No no several shouted and I was told no photos.

I did grab a quick photo from behind a trolly

Todays catch Mola di Bari

and then beat a hasty retreat back to the hotel and the regorging coffee machine.

I have had this a few times in Puglia especially in markets where the traders do not want their photos taken. Even my barber since i took his photo now insists on giving me a full written receipt after each haircut which he never did before. Most work black and worry about who you might be. The fisherman often catch illegal small fish and rather than throw them back bring them in to sell. So again they worry who you might be. Southern Italians want to stay under the radar at all times and cameras worry them. It is always better to ask before you shoot . This is mafia country after all.

 

 

 

 

La Festa Di San Martino

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The feast of San Martino takes place today in Martina Franca. Last year it was cancelled due to the torrential rain that fell the day before. This year we didn’t get 9 inches of rain but rain fell fairly steadily for most of the day and I didn’t venture out to visit it.

It is strange really because the festival has it’s origins in the celebration of the normal Indian summer that Puglia used to enjoy. Certain seeds were planted in early October and the produce from them formed the market for the festa.

For the last few years certainly there has been no Indian summer more indian monsoon.

The festa these days is more like the weekly Wednesday market. Endless clothing stalls flogging stuff not from local clothing manufactures as in days gone by but from China, Vietnam and Cambodia. Row after row of stalls as far as the eye can see. Nor is there much presence of the old pig roasting stalls where whole pigs were cooked slowly over large pits on a spit and the succulent hot meat sold to passers by. It is all very commercial now .

San Martino

Martina Franca calls itself the city of festa and they certainly do San Martino to death each year with two winter festivals and then the biggy in July which lasts 3 days and even has a large funfair. Each though really seem to be an excuse to extend the Wednesday market onto more days rather than doing anything traditional and novel for either tourism or the local population.

The other event that takes place on this San Martino day is traditionally the opening and drinking of the first homemade wine of the 2014 vintage. Not everyone harvests and makes wine in September some delay till the end of October but lots do and the bottles have tantalisingly sat resting since then . Well today several get opened and drunk at lunchtime and the vintage will be drunk then until sometime in August next year if you can keep your hands off the stuff. I failed miserably when I made wine a couple of years back and my last bottle went in early March.

The rain is forecasted to be with us till the middle of next week and the storms of the last few weeks plus the massive ones in September has meant the trees are already stripped bare and very wintery. However in the next field to what we call the garden there is always one tree that hangs on to its leaves and turns a glorious colour in November

Autumn Tree

It has a couple of cousins just down the field as well

Trulli and trees

 

I just wish it was a nicer day to take the pics.

My lengthy sojourn in Cyprus this autumn meant that my only exposure to the beautiful game has been the UK premier league. Every bar in Cyprus features the games on huge screens and Brits and others sit sipping beers and watching the action. Series A hardly gets a mention so i haven’t seen a league table nor a game this year.

Juventus are top I see with Roma three points behind. Inter who most people down here seem to support are a distant 9th and some 12 points adrift already. One of my local bars in Villa Castelli always features the Inter games when on the telly and the place is packed. Now in Cyprus the bar staff run frantically around taking and fulfilling endless orders for pints and snacks. When I first started using this bar I arrived one evening when Inter were playing and feared the worst ( not getting served ) . In fact the poor owner sits behind the bar watching the game with about 50 blokes all using his tables and chairs. At half time the place empties as they rush home to get a drink and a snack and then they are back for the second half. At the final whistle they all troop out and go back to standing on street corners or head home again. Apart from my orders and the card players in the back who are clearly Juventus fans judging by the mutterings if Inter score a goal are the only cash the poor guy takes for laying on the game.

He might however get a few more takers in the next year or so because a young lady has just got her Serie A referee’s certificate .

claudia

She is a model at the moment ( I know you would never have guessed would you) ! But she has hung up her heels and put on boots and is determined to referee in the big league. Might liven up those endless Italian 0-0 draws somewhat !! Here is some more of her in the referee’s outfit.

The Sin Bin will take on a whole new meaning when it is introduced.

 

Postman Pat

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Many years ago my second posting abroad with British Airways was to Oporto in Portugal where I was the District Manager Northern Portugal. Part of my job then was to run the airport and turn out when the BA flight from London Heathrow came in and out.

The flight was initially done by a Trident aircraft but eventually as they were phased out we got a Boeing 737 with 130 economy seats some of which we could convert into Club seats on the turn around. At the back of the aircraft was a space between the last seats on the starboard side and the loo and galley. It was there that crew and some passengers also stowed their cabin bags.

However after about 9 months in yet another reshuffle Oporto was transferred to BA at Gatwick and the service started from there instead.

When I received the load sheets etc from Gatwick I noticed that the Gatwick flights though still a similar B737 had 133 seats. So on arrival I went on board to see where the extra seats were. Unbelievably they had squeezed a row of seats in the space that the Heathrow crews had used. I am only 6 ft tall but I could not get into the row of seats.

I asked our ground agents to ensure that unless full the row was left vacant and if full check in should try to find the smallest people possible to allocate the seats to.

Yesterday I flew from Larnaca to Milan on an Easyjet A320 . I can report that their engineers have had the same wheeze. Row 31 is an afterthought squeezed in to add an extra row and make yet more profit. There is no window and the seat pitch almost non existent . The loo is alongside you and so mans most intimate workings are audible. The flight is 4 hours long and certainly that row has to be avoided.

Perhaps they should try selling more stuff and dispense with the three seats. The service on this 4hr 10 min flight was exactly the same as on the one hour Milan to Bari service. In 1996 when I interviewed for the Managing Director’s job which I got but then turned down ( and that is another story worth telling sometime) Stelios was at pains to tell me how important in flight sales would be to the start up airline. Seems since then it has lost it’s way.

Despite the airport director’s heady €470,000 a year salary and his €500,000 a year bonus Bari airport is still a place that moves at a snail’s pace. How can it take 10 minutes to position a pair of steps at an aircraft door when they were already waiting just out of wing length as we taxied in and are two guys really expected to unload the bags from a full flight of 156 passengers. Maybe to get that salary the guy and his deputy who is on close to that figure should spend sometime at the sharp end of their business .

Budget rent a car were bought by Avis sometime ago and it is now their discount part of the business though to all intent it is now Avis you just get a cheaper rate.

The friendly girl offered me an upgrade from my small car for a discounted €4 a day. Now my couple at years at Alamo rent a car after I had turned young Stelios down had taught me that this ploy normally means they only have a bigger car and would just prefer it if you contributed a little for their poor planning . So stick to your guns as I did and refuse it.

Sure enough in the car park rather than the minuscule little tin box we expected we got a big tin box except this one really is a big tin box. Enter the Fiat Qubo which is basically a van with some passenger seats inside it

postman Pat

Mine is red and I immediately recognised where Fiat had got the design from.

Their guy or guyess like me must have had kids that loved Postman Pat and sub consciously he or she designed the same van knocked in some windows so Jess the cat could get a better view and called it a Qubo ( your guess is as good as mine why)

So I am now driving around Martina Franca singing the theme song.

I always felt I could go on Mastermind and answer questions on Postman Pat Life and Times so well did I know the episodes.But now I have even driven his van !!

 

 

Clever Stuff

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In July of this year I sat on the veranda of our house in Puglia and heard an ambulance in the distance. A few moments later it drove past the top of our road and turned right up a small street. Some 5 minutes later it came back down again and disappeared the way it had come. Wow I thought they must have picked up whoever the patient was really quickly. However some 5 minutes later it was back again and stopped at the top of my driveway. The two guys got out and started on their mobile phones. Minutes later they were off back up the same road. They are lost I thought and realised that the road they were going up is called the same name as another two roads in close vicinity. How this state of affairs came about only the planners would know but the medics were probably on the wrong one. Back down they came and again stopped at the top of the driveway. One guy got out and climbed over my gate and came down towards the house.

Oh god I thought time to put my Italian to the test. I walked down to meet him and  he asked if I knew Sr. Something or another. No I said but there are three street names the same. He looked confused and I was saved by an Italian neighbour who had watched the same performance and went to the guy in the ambulance. She knew the old boy and exactly where he lived. All three climbed back into the ambulance and off they went.

A few days later i ran into her and asked what had happened. Oh she said terrible news the old fellow had phoned for an ambulance but he was dead when they got to him. The 30 minutes wasted trying to find the place can’t have helped I thought.

Here in Pissouri where we live in Cyprus the local expat residence association knowing the delay in getting an ambulance from the General Hospital in Limassol or Paphos have taken things into their own hands. You sign up for the service with a yearly fee and they will lay on a doctor and ambulance now based here in the village. For heart and stroke problems they have a crash team as well that comes before the ambulance. It works well except says the guy running it on occasions we cannot find the street quickly. The road signs ( the few there are)  are in Greek the house numbers almost always missing plus a semi hysterical partner tending the victim is not the easiest person to understand on the phone.

Enter a solution in the form of a new startup what3words.com . (just click on it) These guys have mapped the entire world using Google maps and divided it into segments 3 metres by 3 metres. Each box has a three word code. Input it into their website or app which can be used when offline as well and you can find the place you are looking for. Indeed for a small monthly fee you can buy a single word for your house to make it even easier to find. My local bar in Italy is bifocal.complex.mount for example. Bang it into the website and you know where I quaff ale in Italy .

The words are translated into another language easily so in places where street names are few and street numbers almost non existent like Italy and Cyprus it will be a god send . Words are much easier than post codes to remember and far easier than Lat and Long . I think they are onto a winner.

Now while on the clever stuff if you are like me and tend to subscribe to various website and then after a time just delete the e mails they send you I found another fantastic site the other day unroll.me These guys take your e mail address and run through it  finding all the sites you have subscribed to. Then they offer you the choice of unsubscribing them or rolling them up into one e mail that is sent to you when they have a cluster of them.

I unsubscribed to an amazing 87 on day one and have received at least 4 more a day to decide if i keep or ditch. The rest arrive as one e mail and I read them .

My life is now uncluttered, my in box pristine and once i have bought a single name for my locations anyone can find me.

Peace at last.

 

Memory Lane

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I was writing yesterday about the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Before then almost all tourists to the island went to the North and holidayed around the picturesque harbour of Kyrenia with its crusader castle. The beaches up there are sandy and seemingly endless. If you were to open a business in Cyprus pre ’74 you went north.

kyrenia-harbour

As I wrote yesterday I remembered that I had known someone who did open a business up there though his timing was off.

On the evening of July 30th 1966 I went to a party in Henley on Thames with the then girlfriend who knew the two girls throwing the bash. It was in a flat on the High Street that their father had bought them and this was the flat warming.

We stopped first at the Angel on The Bridge pub which as it’s name explains is er on the bridge over the Thames. The place was busy as England had that day won the World Cup at Wembley. Whilst  having reached the heady age of 18 then it was a pub I knew from various rowing regattas over the years and the landlord of the place had been okay about under age drinkers when the place was packed. His name was Jimmy and he spoke with an Italian accent. I learnt later that though he was Italian his family had come to the UK in the 1930s and he had fought with the British army against the italians in the desert getting for his troubles a piece of shrapnel that took away a kidney and some of his liver.

The two girls throwing the party were leggy blonde bombshells of about 20 odd and whilst fighting for a drink in the kitchen i found out they were the daughters of the landlord of the Angel. Nirvana I thought a stunning girl and a publican’s daughter to boot. There can be nothing finer especially, as it transpired, that Jimmy their father owned not one but five pubs in the Henley area. They however clearly were mixing a different and much older set most of whom came from London.

angel

I answered the call of the sea a few months later and forgot all about Jimmy and his girls.

In September 1974 while working at Heathrow Airport I rented an house in Holyport near Bray. My local there was a pub called the Belgium Arms . It was run by a little old lady who served the drinks from a single hatch that you had to knock on and which after some time ( she was very arthritic) she would open and then serve you before carefully closing it again. However her Brakespear bitter was like the nectar of the gods and so the place was full of beer drinkers.

A month after I got there she failed to answer some steady knocking on her hatch and was found by one of the locals who climbed through, to have gone to that great pub in the sky. Brakespear’s whilst of course almost mourning her loss moved in to ” do the place up” and it closed for a month.

November was the opening date and I turned up to see what kind of terrible mess the brewery had made of this beautiful ( for a male beer drinker) pub.

belgium

It actually wasn’t too bad the bars had been opened up and now boasted rows of spirit bottles with optics, a new kitchen had been built to do food, the loos had been bought inside, a chilled cellar had been installed for the beer but the dartboard and the locals area were still there . The big surprise was, standing behind the bar with a big beaming smile, none other than Jimmy from the Angel on the Bridge. Knowing as I thought that he still owned six pubs in Henley and that he must have been by then about 64 years old I was somewhat taken a back.

Over drinks that night ( he of course also knew how to keep a fine pint of bitter) I asked what he was doing back running a small pub in a backwater like Holyport.

Well he said I decided in 1973 to sell up and retire to Cyprus. However I couldn’t imagine just sitting around so I put all my money into an hotel in Kyrenia. I spent 3 months doing it up the way I wanted the place to be and by July the hotel was ready to be launched .

The date he picked he said was July 19th and he invited everyone he could think of that could bring business to the place. The wine flowed, the whiskey was opened and drunk and eventually at 3 a.m. he closed the place and staggered to bed with his wife.

Always an early riser hew was up and opened the curtains to let in the sun. He turned to his wife and said. There are mushrooms in the sky loads of them. Jimmy you’re still drunk come back to bed and sleep it off. No no he persisted loads and loads of mushrooms.

It was the Turkish army paratroopers arriving to seize the Island . Later that morning the Turkish army moved into his hotel and told him it was now Turkish and would be a billet for their troops . Take what you can carry and get out. That afternoon along with many other holiday makers and British residents the two of them were in a camp and then a few days later were taken to the six mile beach where HMS Albion with 41Regiment RM comando on board took them off and around to the RAF base.

A day later still in the clothes they had hastily put on they arrived back in the UK having lost everything.

Jimmy went to see the Brakespear family who he knew well to see if he could get a job and they initially told him they had nothing for him. But a few weeks later they phoned to say a pub tenancy had come up due to the death of the present tenant and there he was in The Belgium Arms. I actually had my wedding reception there in 1977.

 

 

A-Hunting We Shall Go

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I forgot completely that the hunting season has started here on Cyprus. That means eager shooters head out in clapped out pick up trucks to blast pretty much anything that flies in the sky every Sunday and Wednesday.

They dress like commandos and most have dogs that are kept in a box ( with air holes) on the flat back of the truck until released to perform the beaters task of putting the birds in the sky after which the guns blast vast quantities of size 8 shot into the air.

I was halfway through my walk when the first shots echoed around the hill. They were on my bit of headland .

headland

That morning I had sat in a cafe reading the Cyprus Mail and drinking a Cyprus coffee. The article i was reading was the requirement by the European Court of Human Rights that the Greek Cypriot government  dig up a Nord Noralas military transport plane that had crashed at Nicosia Airport on July 21st 1974 the day after the Turkish invasion of the island. It is thought that when it was buried to form a base for a war memorial human remains might have still been on board as the bodies taken from it don’t correspond to the Greek commandos on board.

What concerned me as the cacophony of noise from the shotguns increased that afternoon was that the aircraft was one of severn carrying Greek troops from Crete sent to help defend the airport from the invading Turks and help the Greek Cypriots had been shot down by Greek Cypriot anti aircraft fire and several other aircraft had been hit by Greek Cypriot civilians near the airfield firing shotguns from the ground. Friendly fire it is rather stupidly called as 33 Greek commandos lost their lives and many were injured as  six aircraft landed that night.The seventh was ordered home as daylight had come and despite the best efforts of the Greek commandos shots were still being fired at their aircraft.

I started to whistle and make plenty of noise kicking stones etc as I walked. No friendly fire coming my way today I hoped.

When we came to live in Cyprus in 2008 we rented a house on a small estate on an headland with great views of the sea. Our next door neighbour at weekends was the goat herder who had owned the land and sold it to the developer. He had received money and three houses as payment. One he used as a weekend house, one we rented and one his daughter had as her dowry which is normal here. With his money he had bought a small corner shop in Limassol where his wife came from and he lived in her dowry house there. However two days a week he came back to hunt with his chums. He spoke no English but his wife was fluent.

One Sunday they turned up as usual to have lunch before he went off hunting. There were several pigeons on his roof that keep doing their thing on his tiles and onto his patio. He went to his car and out came his shotgun He will kill them said his wife to me over the fence before dashing inside. I followed suit into my house.

The pigeons clearly had come across these hunters before and stayed where they were on the roof. His first shot took out an upstairs window and his second peppered his drainpipe bringing it down. The pigeons deciding he might now get lucky took to the air and flew over him out to sea. He swung around having reloaded and fired. This shot took the window out of the developer’s sales office nearby and his second peppered the sign proclaiming the finest houses for sale. The pigeons returned to his roof as his wife raced out and told him to stop rather forcibly. He went into lunch and came out later to go  “hunting”.

All this was going through my mind as I made more and more noise until I was safely off the headland and running for home. Never again will i venture out on a Wednesday or Sunday.

 

 

Divergent Stories

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On Sunday we fly back to Bari from Larnaca courtesy of Easyjet via Milan. To get in the mood pasta and sauce was on the menu last night at chez Jones . Who was it said the trouble with Italian food is after five days you are hungry again ?

It is also time to brush up on speaking Italian not one of my strong points

italian-speaking-mode

 

Okay well I’ve mastered that so I’m ready to go. I read the other day that Italians use their hands when they speak more than deaf people do when using sign language.

I subscribe to Google alerts which most days sends me stuff that the search engine finds for Puglia. Two stories yesterday appeared in my in box .

The first was by one of the travel writers for a national UK newspaper who  come to Puglia in the off season and stay about 3 days. This guy waxes eloquently about the off the beaten track nature of the place, the elderly women sitting in their doorways making pasta, the urban grit of the major cities and towns which I take to mean the East German apartment blocks and of course Justin Timberlake and his wedding. This guy adds that Prince Harry has been this year as has Pippa la derriere Middleton. If half the Italian males in my local bar knew that they would have been at the airport to see her.

During such a short visit of course the writer is fairly restricted as to who he talks to about the place. In this case it is the chef of the restaurant one of the multitude of Puglian government financed Tourist Boards took him to for dinner.

The chef says to him “Apulians take a deep pride in their history and traditions. Renewed interest in local culture is one of the driving forces behind the increase in regional tourism. For a long time, people were leaving to go to the North and abroad,but now young people want to stay,”

This success story of people especially local young people staying in Puglia is the crux of the second half of his story.

The second story in the Google search e mail was by a financial correspondent for another UK paper based in Rome Nick Squires. He is quoting from a massive report just published by Svimez, the Association for the Industrial Development of the Mezzogiorno. Now the Mezzogiorno is basically Southern Italy rather than just Puglia.

The report doesn’t mince it’s words. There has, it says, been a catastrophic demographic and industrial decline since the recession started in 2009. For the first time since 1918 when Southern Italy like the rest of Europe was ravaged by an influenza epidemic more people are dying than are giving birth to babies.

If the trend continues as it seems to be doing, the South will be short 4 million people by 2050 with many towns and villages completely deserted.

Added to this each year the equivalent of an entire town’s population emigrates from the region seeking jobs either in Italy’s wealthy north or overseas, including Britain, the association said.
Last year, 116,000 decided to pack their bags and look for better opportunities elsewhere.

Investment has collapsed, infrastructure is a shambles and GDP per capita is in free fall. I told you they didn’t mince their words !

Since the recession began to bite in 2008 there has been a seven per cent increase in the number of southern households who are unable to pay the rent or eat meat or fish on a regular basis.
In the same period, 583,000 southerners have lost their jobs. “The alarming report showed that the government has to do more to lift the south out of poverty”, said Maria Carmela Lanzetta, the minister for regional affairs in Rome.
“Funds from the EU need to be put to better use because without the south, Italy as a whole would not be able to climb out of recession”, she said.

Oh good nothing to do with the over valued Euro or the Frau Merkel austerity measures , just the fact that the EU funds are misappropriated then, thank goodness for that.I thought it might be serious.

Talking of the Mezzogiorno did you know that in 1764 one Sir William Hamilton was appointed UK Minister to the court of the Two Sicilies in Naples ( the state mirrored what is known today as the Mezzogiorno). He wandered about places like Pompeii picking up bits of antiquity that the local population seemed uninterested in.

These he took back to Britain whenever he had a bit of home leave and through his sales agent there The Hon. Charles Granville he flogged the stuff to various buyers including the British Museum. It was quite lucrative it seems as he agreed to take on Charles’s mistress who was proving to be very costly. She was 35 years Hamllton’s junior.  Her name was Emma Lyon and was into “attitudes” ( posing as various classical Roman personages). She had learnt this working as a scantily dressed  “attendant” at the Temple of Health in London which used the newly invented electricity as a health aid. People went to get shocks to cure various ills. No one had thought of using it for lighting yet.

Hamilton installed her in a villa in Naples where she continued to adopt “attitude” poses.

I’ll do the rest of the story tomorrow but let me finish with a piece of music I heard yesterday which puts Queen’s ” who wants to live forever” into a beautifully slow piece of classical music.

 

Curry Favour

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According to the Cyprus yellow pages there are 24 Indian restaurants in Southern Cyprus ( the Greek bit). Apparently there  are now 25 as a new one has opened in Limassol which friends are going to tonight but that number will shrink again I’m told with the closure of the Indian restaurant on the Sovereign Base due to a change in catering arrangements . The Pakistani family that own it will be heading home as it seems off the base they will not be able to get visas to stay in Cyprus.

The other day I somehow took the wrong turning and ended up at the Akrotiri piece of the base where the Tornados have been heading off to war. Security looked tight. Lots of crash bollards, loads of stop notices and proceed no further plus an impressive guard post with a chicane. No one is getting in there thought I and turned around to find the right road. Yesterday my tax guy who does stuff on the base told me that the other day two foreigners were found drinking at a bar on the base. They were in swimmers and had walked around the headland in waist deep water from Ladies Mile Beach and were enjoying a couple of drinks oblivious to the security around them !

I mention curry because i read today that in the UK, chicken tikka masala the dish that you cannot find on the Subcontinent has been displaced as the favourite dish of the Brits by chicken jalfrezi with green chillies. A much hotter dish with loads more flavour that it says in the blurb reflects the changing taste buds of the average Brit.

Curry

 

Yes I know, I can read too but I couldn’t find one with Jalfrezi on it ! But that is quite clever isn’t it.

I worked in Bombay for three years with British Airways in the 1980s and in my final year there I used to meet up with a Welsh guy Ivor and a couple of Indian friends for a few beers . Over those foaming tankards of ice cold beer at the various Gymkhana clubs in Bombay we made plans to open our own Indian Restaurant in the UK with the two Indian guys providing most of the finance as they were loaded. The plan was to have a place serving North Indian food with lots of meats cooked slowly in large tandori ovens . Guests would sit on cushions at low tables eating with their fingers and all the serving staff would be Indian girls to differentiate the place from normal UK curry joints of the time. We planned our first one in the Thames Valley . We actually got quite far down the line with it and had a good business case which included home delivery and branded food to provide to the pub trade in the Thames Valley as a sideline to the restaurant.

Clearly we needed a name for it and as the whole concept was formulated in the gymkhana clubs we hit on that as our brand name Gymkhana. The Indian lads were really enthused by the name. I should point out we were always in these clubs as their guests. It was, in most of them, impossible for a European to get full membership or in some to get membership at all. The big one was the grand old lady of Bombay The Bombay Gym

Bombay Gym

 

In the end I was posted to Canada, Ivor went to China with BP and one of the Indian friends went to Delhi and the plans now languish in the attic.

However it seems someone else picked up the name and has opened a very upmarket curry shop in the middle of Mayfair called the Gymkhana . The Spectator sent the left wing Guardian writer to review it the other day . This her review

Tanya Gold 18 October 2014

Gymkhana is morally disgusting

It’s revolting in the same way that eating in homage to apartheid South Africa or to commemorate the genocide of native Americans is revolting

Gymkhana is a fashionable Indian restaurant in Albemarle Street. It was, according to its natty website, ‘inspired by Colonial Indian gymkhana clubs, set up by the British Raj, where members of high society came to socialise, dine, drink and play sport’. This is revolting, in the same way that eating in homage to apartheid South Africa or to commemorate the genocide of native Americans is revolting. Not that this is exceptional, of course; these days no crime is so calamitous it cannot be seconded into an entertainment experience or themed meal. There is, after all, a cafeteria at Auschwitz which received the following review online: ‘They have a range of foods, from snacks, drinks, ice cream, hot dogs, burgers and meals. Plenty of seating.’ Ah, plenty of seating. It may be in the Talmud — the redemptive power of plenty of seating. Or maybe not.

The critics love Gymkhana. It has a Michelin star — not that this indicates anything beyond a skill with tiny hobbit food — and is national restaurant of the year in some stupid restaurant awards, known to human beings as poisonous PR puff, that I have retrospectively boycotted.

Further in there is deeper hell, near the loos — an engraving of a white couple carried around by Indians, who look as miserable as engraving, not the greatest of the visual arts, can convey; and it is all the sadder for it. Bah! Retro racist chic is awful

This ‘themed’ decor does not make me hungry so much as very angry; although I seem to be the only one taking colonialism tribute dining personally. Because Gymkhana is packed, largely with Indians and the grey-faced hedge-funders native to Mayfair, who are calmly drinking beer.”

Wow.

If such places were really seen as instruments of so called colonial oppression one would imagine they would have been burnt to the ground on the first day of independence . However the Indians many already members moved quickly into the places throughout india and have enjoyed them ever since. I think they would be amazed at such rubbish being written in their name. And talking of names i still think it is a good one. Sorry Tanya

Up and Running

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Well more a steady walk to be honest at my age.

I have for a year been writing about the delights of living in Puglia in Southern Italy at http://www.hereinpuglia.wordpress.com but have decided to broadened the scope now by writing more of a travel blog to incorporate all the places i get to during the year.

As a sixty something traveller ( would that be a good blog title?) I get first hand experience of the things that get in the way of travelling as a retired baby boomer. You know things like travel insurance with the dreaded ” existing condition” as well as the fun and games of being an expat in two countries ( Italy and Cyprus ). These I want to share to hopefully help others fulfil the their dream of living abroad or just spending some retirement time travelling.

I am reading a book at the moment called Circles: Fifty Round Trips by James Burke in which he starts with one fact  (in his case historical) and moves through a linked series of facts so that they end where they begin if you get my drift. Lets have a go by starting with a travel quote.

Someone once said ” travel is the brain food for an inquisitive mind ” I think it was a travel agent to be fair. So taking that quote further .What do you want most in life?

For the vast majority of us, the answer is ” to be happy.” In a 2007 survey of more than 10,000 people from 48 countries published in Perspectives on Psychological Sciences  (essential breakfast time reading don’t you agree), happiness was viewed as more important than success, intelligence, knowledge, maturity, wisdom, relationships, wealth and even the meaning in life. Yet in another survey ( you know I have never once been invited to take part in a survey. Where do they get the people from ?) it shows that people spend less than 20% of their time doing things that make them happy.

In 2007 the Princeton economist Alan Krueger and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman  published a paper called “Are We Having More Fun Yet?” They posed this question: Have the social progress, economic prosperity and technological advancements of the past 50 years changed the quality of our lives ? Have these new opportunities allowed us to spend more time doing what we care about most, thus increasing our satisfaction and meaning in life? And the answer they decided was no.

So how do we go about being happier you ask ?

In a 1996 study published in Psychology and Aging (another great bed time read for you), more than 1,000 older adults aged 60 to 86 were carefully observed over a five-year period ( not that many of them could remember it), and researchers found that those who were rated as being more curious at the beginning of the study were more likely to be alive at its conclusion, even after taking into account age, whether they smoked, the presence of cancer or cardiovascular disease, and so on.

Gallup  recently reported the results of a survey conducted with more than 130,000 people from some 130 nations, a sample designed to represent 96 percent of the world’s population. The poll identified two factors that had the strongest influence on how much enjoyment a person experienced in a given day: “being able to count on someone for help” and “learned something yesterday.”

So developing good relationships with other people  and finding stuff out are key components of a “happy” life. And to achieve those factors you need to have….. wait for it , go on you have guessed it ……..  inquisitiveness.

In fact, ( don’t worry we are almost there, stay alert) in one of the largest undertakings in the field of psychology,  Martin Seligman, PhD, and Chris Peterson, PhD, devised a scientific classification of the basic human strengths. Their research eventually recognized 24 basic strengths ( don’t worry I’m not going to write them all down). And, of those 24 strengths that human beings can possess, curiosity was one of the five most highly associated with happiness.

There are other important relationships between curiosity and happiness. In his book Stumbling on Happiness (2006), Harvard University psychology professor ( aren’t they always from Harvard) Daniel Gilbert, PhD, shows that, while we think we know what will make us happy in the future, we are actually less likely to find joy as a result of a planned pursuit than by simply stumbling upon it. Hurrah no more gym , no more bridge classes and certainly no group tour holidays.

If an inquisitive mind is the key to happiness and travel is the brain food for an inquisitive mind you better become an independent  traveller. So come join me  on this blog !!

“I always wanted a happy ending… Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”
Gilda Radner.